TVs are getting smarter, tablets are getting smaller and gadgets in general are becoming more powerful and user-friendly. The products and innovations unveiled at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas brought lots of good news for older consumers. Here are a few exciting tech trends to watch for in 2012.
Not Just TV. Smart TV.
TV manufacturers boasted about increased sales of 3D sets, but these days if you're shopping for a high-quality TV it's likely to be 3D-enabled, even if you're not particularly interested. The more useful trend is the evolution of smart TVs, Wi-Fi-enabled sets that connect to the Internet, providing additional video and music, apps, social networks and games.
- Both LG and Sony announced that their TVs will begin integrating voice and gesture commands into remote controls on some new sets. On sets that will hit the market later this year, you'll be able to tell your TV what you want by using hand gestures to change channels, pause and fast-forward videos and access apps. A built-in camera on the TV will detect your voice and body movements.
- Panasonic made a big deal at their news conference about the fact that you'll be able to play Angry Birds on their latest TVs. At this point, I'm pretty sure there are microwave ovens that let you play Angry Birds, but you get the idea: smart TVs help you move beyond cable and network programming and give you many more entertainment options on the biggest screen in the house.
- Consumers should know that to enjoy the benefits of a smart TV, a smart TV isn't actually required. The technology is built into many Blu-Ray players on the market today and most video game consoles as well.
- Although Google TV didn't exactly set the world on fire upon its initial launch, several manufacturers — including LG and Sony — announced plans to update the technology, which I've found very useful for additional media consumption. Worth a look if digital content intrigues you.
- While smart TVs are available now, the most jaw-dropping TVs at this year's show remain tantalizing promises. LG and Samsung both unveiled 55-inch OLED TVs that delivered spectacular video, and Sony showed its own prototype Crystal LED TV with similar characteristics — jet-black background, brilliant colors and blur-free video even in fast-moving scenes. No pricing or specs were quoted, but Samsung said it plans to ship its first OLED sets this year. Expect high prices and low availability at first, but the picture quality could set these sets apart.